The Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library has a brand new outdoor reading spot on its grounds thanks to the snow cave-building skills of a University of Maine at Presque Isle faculty member and several UMPI students.
Library Director Sonja Plummer-Morgan had the idea earlier this winter to create a fun, snowy space where local kids could snuggle up with a good book, and it quickly “snowballed.” The Presque Isle Public Works Department was quick to oblige in dumping a 10-foot-high pile of snow near the entrance of the local library. And it only took a few messages online for Plummer-Morgan to find the “architect” for the project—UMPI Assistant Professor of Art Hyrum Benson.
Plummer-Morgan said the library’s Artist-in-residence, Clifton Boudman, first suggested approaching Benson, since he understood him to have some experience constructing snow caves or sculptures. She explained that her idea was borne out of the region’s past, when winter carnivals were a fun and popular activity. Her hope is to grow the snow cave idea, perhaps even having a snow cave trail through the city in future years.
“Our staff couldn’t be more pleased with the University’s backing of our efforts to make this snow project a reality,” she said. “With Hyrum and his students’ help, we’ve provided a place to play for all children in the community and a way to celebrate one of the great strengths about our village—our snowy culture.”
Benson explained that he usually builds a snow cave every winter in his own backyard. His last snow cave was about 7 feet high inside and could hold about 10 people. On Feb. 9, Benson and three of his Art Club students—Renee Moore, Jessalyn Levesque, and Sarah Coons—spent the morning outside the public library building the official snow cave. While the job took about two hours, it was cold work, with the temperature rising from about -5 to about 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Benson said he had the warm job, though, of hollowing out the inside of the snow cave.
“I love being outdoors, and when the library contacted me, I seized the opportunity, and volunteered Studio 923, the UMPI Art Club, to help,” he said. “I liked the idea that the library proposed and thought it would be fun for the kids.”
Since its creation, the snow cave has had lots of casual visitors and received lots of compliments. The new establishment, however, had its first formal use on Wednesday morning, Feb. 18, during the local library’s children story time. Plummer-Morgan said the group of toddlers to tween kids enjoyed their usual story time with a twist—outside in the snow cave in their winter snow clothes and with flashlights.
“It was a joy to work with University faculty and students in this collaborative and engaging way to create a reading nook that we know so many of our children crawl into and get cozy,” Plummer-Morgan said. “Watching children happily traipse across the library snow drifts in search of a cave built just for them and for pure enjoyment as they drag their book along is the grandest measure of success.”